Covax, the global initiative to source Covid-19 vaccines for developing nations, aims to start shipping nearly 90 million doses to Africa this month.
The initial phase of 90 million doses will help countries to immunise 3% of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups, in the first half of 2021.
As production capacity increases and more vaccines become available, Covax aims to vaccinate at least 20% of Africans by providing up to 600 million doses by the end of 2021.
The organisation notified countries of their allocation through letters sent on 30 January. The final shipments will be based on the production capacities of vaccine manufacturers and the readiness of countries to receive them.
Recipient countries need to submit finalised national deployment and vaccination plans to receive vaccines from Covax facilities.
The roll-out of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is subject to the vaccine being listed for emergency use by WHO.
In addition, around 320 000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires countries to store them at -70 degrees celsius, have been allocated to four African countries – Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia.
Thirteen African countries submitted proposals, which were were evaluated by a multi-agency committee based on current mortality rates, new cases and trends, and the capacity to handle the ultra-cold chain needs of the vaccine.
“Africa has watched other regions start Covid-19 vaccination campaigns from the side-lines for too long. This planned roll-out is a critical first step to ensuring the continent gets equitable access to vaccines,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We know no one will be safe until everyone is safe.”
“This announcement allows countries to fine-tune their planning for Covid-19 immunization campaigns. We urge African nations to ramp up readiness and finalize their national vaccine deployment plans. Regulatory processes, cold chain systems and distribution plans need to be in place to ensure vaccines are safely expedited from ports of entry to delivery. We can’t afford to waste a single dose,” said Dr Moeti.
Alongside the Covax efforts, the African Union has secured 670 million vaccine doses for the continent which will be distributed in 2021 and 2022 as countries secure adequate financing.
The African Export-Import Bank will facilitate payments by providing advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to $2bn to the manufacturers on behalf of countries.
Covax is led by the World Health Organization, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.